How do you keep apples fresh after cutting them?

Apples are one of the most popular fruits, known for being sweet, crunchy, and delicious. However, once an apple is cut open, it starts to brown and lose freshness quickly. This oxidation process can make cut apples unappetizing. Fortunately, there are several methods you can use to keep cut apples looking and tasting fresher for longer.

Why Do Apples Turn Brown After Being Cut?

When an apple is cut open and exposed to air, oxidation occurs. Oxidation is a chemical reaction between the nutrients in the apple flesh and the oxygen in the air. This reaction causes the flesh to turn brown.

Specifically, apples contain a nutrient called polyphenol oxidase. When the cells of the apple are damaged by cutting or biting into the fruit, polyphenol oxidase is released and reacts with oxygen. This reaction produces melanin, which is the brown pigment you see forming on cut or bitten apples.

The browning process doesn’t harm the apple’s nutrition or make it unsafe to eat. But it does degrade the flavor, texture, and appearance. That’s why it’s best to slow down oxidation to keep cut apples fresh for as long as possible.

How to Prevent Browning When Preparing Apples

Here are some of the most effective ways to prevent cut apples from turning brown:

Use Lemon or Citrus Juice

Applying lemon juice, lime juice, or other citrus juice to cut apples is one of the easiest ways to prevent browning. The acidity in the citrus juice slows down oxidation, keeping the apples from turning brown for 30 minutes or longer.

After slicing an apple, spritz the pieces thoroughly with lemon juice or brush juice onto surface areas. Let the juice sit for a few minutes before serving or storing.

Submerge in Water

After cutting an apple, you can submerge the slices or pieces in a bowl of cool water. Make sure the apple is fully immersed. The water acts as a barrier between the apple flesh and oxygen in the air. This prevents or delays oxidation.

Change the water periodically to keep it cool and limit bacteria growth. Drain the water before eating or further preparing the apples.

Use Acidulated Water

For longer protection, make acidulated water by mixing water with citric acid or ascorbic acid (vitamin C). You can find both acids in powdered form. Mix 1/4 teaspoon of powder per cup of water. The water’s acidity prevents browning similarly to lemon juice.

After cutting apples, submerge them in the acidulated water. They’ll stay fresh looking for a few hours. Drain and pat dry before serving or cooking.

Coat in Honey

Pure honey is naturally acidic with antioxidant properties. After slicing apples, drizzle a thin layer of honey over the exposed flesh areas. Let it sit briefly, then rinse off with water. The honey prevents oxidative browning while adding sweetness.

Use Fruit Fresh Produce Protector

Fruit Fresh and similar fruit protectors are commercial products designed to prevent apple browning. They contain diluted ascorbic acid that inhibits oxidation when sprayed onto cut surfaces.

Simply mist all cut surfaces immediately after slicing. Allow to dry before further handling. Reapply if storing apples for more than an hour.

Proper Storage for Cut Apples

In addition to treating cut apples with anti-browning agents, you also need to store them properly to maintain freshness. Some guidelines for keeping cut apples fresh longer include:

  • Refrigerate below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place in air-tight container or bag.
  • If leaving uncovered, spray with lemon juice and cover with plastic wrap directly touching surface.
  • Use within 6 hours for best quality.

The cold temperature of the refrigerator slows the enzymatic browning. Storing in an air-tight container prevents oxygen from reaching the apple. Plastic wrap also provides a protective barrier.

Freezing Cut Apples

For long term storage, cut apples can be frozen. Freezing stops the browning process entirely.

To freeze apples:

  1. Prepare apples – peel, core, and slice into pieces. Spritz with lemon juice.
  2. Blanch 2-3 minutes in boiling water or steam to inactivate enzymes.
  3. Cool immediately in ice bath. Drain water.
  4. Pat dry. Place pieces in air-tight freezer bag or container, leaving headspace.
  5. Squeeze out excess air. Seal and label.
  6. Freeze for up to 10-12 months.

Blanching helps destroy enzymes so the apples don’t continue browning in the freezer. Freezing stops enzyme activity and oxidation.

To use frozen apples, thaw in the refrigerator overnight. They’ll retain their fresh flavor and texture.

Other Ways to Use Cut Apples Quickly

If you cut more apples than needed for immediate use, here are some delicious ways to use them up fast:

  • Saute into stir fry dishes.
  • Bake into muffins, breads, crisps, and pies.
  • Make homemade applesauce.
  • Dehydrate into apple chips.
  • Juice and drink as apple cider.
  • Blend into smoothies.

Things to Avoid

Some methods don’t work well for keeping cut apples from browning:

  • Salt water – Ineffective and makes apples soggy.
  • Oil – Can’t fully coat all cut surfaces.
  • Sugar – Promotes bacteria growth.
  • Refrigeration alone – Slows but doesn’t prevent browning.


With the right preparation and storage, fresh cut apples don’t have to turn an unappealing brown color before you’re ready to eat them. Treating the cut surfaces with lemon juice, citric acid, honey, or commercial anti-browning products will maintain appealing color and texture.

Combine that with proper refrigerated storage in air-tight containers, and cut apples will stay fresh and crisp for several hours. For longer storage, freeze treated apple pieces for later use. With a little care, you can enjoy fresh sliced apples anytime.

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